My wife and I have never met our first child. We lost the baby during the pregnancy, in the early stages before we even knew for sure if it was a girl. But we both knew she was a girl. We named her Hannah Grace, and yesterday would have been her 16th birthday. Years ago I wrote about Hannah for an Irish magazine called 4you. I posted that article on the blog in 2018, and I’m reposting it today in honour of the daughter we look forward to meeting for the first time in Heaven.
It’s taking too long. That’s how I know my world is crumbling. The midwife can’t find what she’s looking for. She keeps trying, but every new effort is the ringing of steeple bells tolling a funeral. Not a formal, prepared, eulogised, dressed-in-black funeral. No, this is an impromptu affair, with no time to think, and no black shoes to look at as I stare at the floor. But I can’t just stare at the floor, people are talking to me. I have to concentrate to keep looking at them. I have to focus. It’s not their fault. They’re trying to help. I need to be polite and listen. What about my wife? She must be feeling the same as me. No, she must be feeling worse. After all, Hannah is still inside her. Hannah who we weren’t even sure was a girl (but we knew). Hannah who was a world of new life and dreams. Hannah who we have the little dress waiting for at home in a room right across the hall so we can hear her if she cries…
Continue reading Hannah’s Funeral
My brother and I shared a room growing up, and our closet held a few random pieces of military uniforms inherited from family members who had served in the armed forces. The most popular was the Air Force dress uniform hat. My brother wore it, mostly, because he was the oldest boy in the neighbourhood, so he was the general. The general was never short of orders for his loyal troops. He graciously helped us advance from lowly privates through rank after gratifying rank by having us climb walls, run obstacle courses, and complete drills. We obeyed enthusiastically, and proudly wore the rank pins we bought for ourselves from the Army surplus store. We dug trenches. We built hidden fortresses in the forest. We spent our days outside rearranging red clay and fallen trees, scraping our knees and conquering our fears, all for the general. We never questioned his authority. We never thought to ask him why he never had to earn his own rank. The sun was shining, morale was high, and there was always another challenge to work towards.
Continue reading The General
Our world today is flooded with so many options in so many areas of life, from relationships to work to how to spend weekends. In a climate like this, long-term commitments can feel like little more than limitations on our freedom to choose. Then again, what good are a thousand options if we never choose one? That’s what this poem is about:
Continue reading Commitment Is A Ball
I’ve always enjoyed the book of Proverbs in the Bible. The short, memorable sayings hit hard, like espresso shots of truth. You might say that the book is a bit like Twitter, but without the hot-takes, the cut-downs, and the crazy weird stuff and arguments… so not like Twitter at all, actually.
The whole point of the book of Proverbs is to gather wisdom and knowledge about life and living, and to pass it on to the next generation. Which got me thinking: if Solomon can write proverbs to pass on what he learned about life to help his children, why can’t I? I have lived for a little while now, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Why shouldn’t I try to capture some of those things in proverbs—short, memorable sayings that might help my children, or someone else?
Continue reading Writing Proverbs
One of the most stunning realities in the Bible is that the God of the whole universe calls his people his children. Though we have all turned against him in sin, he not only stoops down to bring salvation (at great cost to himself), he goes much further—lifting those he saves to the heights of honour and privilege as the adopted members of his own family. He simply asks us to stop running away and come, like children running back into the arms of a loving father. As Paul says in Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.’” When Charles Spurgeon preached on this verse, he took time to focus on one word in particular: “crying”—a word that shows the intimacy and security of how the children of God relate to their Father. This is what he said:
Continue reading The Cry Of A Child
Last week our family attended the first birthday party of a little girl whose parents waited and longed and prayed for six long years, wondering if they would ever be able to have a child of their own. To say it was a joyful occasion is an understatement.
Also last week the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a decision from almost 50 years ago, finding that there is not actually a right to abortion in the US constitution, so individual states are free to legislate as they please on the issue. Some states have kept abortion legal, others have not. Some people rejoiced, others mourned. Some said the judgment was a gain for life, others that it was a loss for personal autonomy.
Continue reading Life Is Precious
Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and one of the things that stands out to me as I think about my own father is how he has always spoken to everyone the same way. My mother used to point this out to me as a child every now and then, which helped me realise from an early age that, 1) this is important, and 2) it is not something everyone does. As I’ve grown older, my conviction of the truth of these two points has only grown stronger.
Continue reading He Speaks To Everyone The Same Way
“And they lived happily ever after” may be a cliché, but it’s still satisfying. After all the troubles and difficulties of a good story, we love to see the happy couple roll away in their carriage as the credits start rolling. Of course, we also know in the back of our minds that any “ever after” on earth will include more troubles and difficulties in the days and years ahead. But after all they have been through, we wouldn’t want to mention that. It’s the end of the story, leave them alone. But in real life, a wedding is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, one that could easily be longer and more complex than anything that came before it.
Continue reading A Happy Beginning
There’s a small square of earth behind our house that belongs to us. Which is strange, because it was here a long time before we were and will be here a long time after we’re gone. But there’s a deed in an office somewhere that has our names on it, so the ground is ours. And with that ground comes the responsibility to care for it—a responsibility that didn’t come from an office, but from Heaven.
We do our best. And when I say “we”, I really mean my wife, Jessica. She’s the one who does most of the caring and tending and planting. I made the raised beds around the edges of the garden, but she’s the one that filled them with roses and blueberries, mint and strawberries, pineapple sage and climbing jasmine and passion flowers. This year, she brought home packets of seeds for dahlias, zinnias, and cornflowers as well, because she wants to have flowers to cut for our dinner table throughout the spring, summer, and autumn. She sowed the seeds in trays of compost and found the perfect spot inside our glass door where our seedlings could have ideal conditions: plenty of sun (by Irish standards), warmth inside the house, protection from cold and storms and slugs, and regular watering. We babied our little baby plants, and we were delighted to see them grow, and grow fast. In fact they grew so fast that their stems became long and thin and too weak to hold up their own new leaves. One by one me they began to fall over. What went wrong? How could our seedlings be so weak when we protected them from every difficulty and obstacle? What more could we do for them?
Continue reading Seedlings Need The Weather
I remember meeting my firstborn child for the first time. Of course I do. How could I forget? I remember when I spoke to him the first time, and he turned and looked at me, and this tiny fresh human who had never seen the outside world before recognised my voice, and stopped crying. That was the moment I realised with incredible force that my world could never be the same because part of my heart was now inside the body of a child I didn’t even know yet.
Continue reading What I Learned About Love When I Met My Son